Generally, I like teaching on Fridays. My students are easy to get along with, listen well, repeat well, and aren’t afraid to ask questions.
There’s a class I have on Friday I refer to as “The Mob” in my lesson notes. This isn’t because they’re likely to destroy me and my family if I betray them, but rather because it’s a class of six kids with long names (so I don’t write them all down anymore), and they are a busy group.
Initially, this class stressed me because often times each kid is in his or her own little world, and getting them to stay on task can at times be a trial. After a month or two, I got the hang of things, and now it’s one of my favorite classes to teach. The six of them have been taking class together for a couple of years, and they work well. They astonish me with their ability to explain to me (in minimal Japanese and simple English) concepts that my other students wouldn’t think to try to express.
The fact that these kids actively try to use as much English as possible for 50 minutes straight is amazing to me. I want to point out: these kids are ages 6-8 years old, and definitely have their own distinct personalities:
Kotona – “The smart one” is undoubtedly the leader of this class. She is a tiny, thin girl, but keeps the entire class up to date with what we’re learning because her English is good, and she picks up new concepts quickly. She will use any means necessary to express herself – drawing, charades, using other words creatively, etc. She is always the first to catch on to something new, and the first finished with our daily workbook exercise (at which point she helps the other students).
Kanaho – “The jolly one” is a good-natured kid who always has something to share. She is enthusiastic in class and has zero problem telling me she has no idea what to say or do. She is adamant about her favorite food being bread. She has cherubic cheeks, so even on days when she’s tired and a little grumpy at the beginning of class, she comes off as jovial.
Reina – “The Hurricane” – is the noisiest of the group. She is Yuri’s (my university student from Thursday) little sister, and the sister of a boy I teach on Wednesday. Reina often has trouble staying in her seat – there is usually one of her limbs on the table if she’s not up inspecting our flashcards for the day. She is reprimanded often by the other students for being noisy or playing games unfairly. She has a permanent dopey grin and muppet-like wavy hair.
Manami – “The Mother Hen” is the one I can usually rely on to keep things on track. I can already see her in the future as a plump housewife shepherding children. She kindly reminds the whole class that it’s English time, so we should not use Japanese. She becomes the explainer of all game disputes, and informs me whenever Reina has done something terrible (like hidden flashcards).
Nanami – “The quiet one” doesn’t say much, and she and her sister (one of my Tuesday students) both lack much of a knack for language. She stares at me intensely when I ask her a question. She can usually get through the first half of a structure like “He is…” or “She is”…”, and then blanks, or makes an unintelligible sound I think she hopes will pass for an answer. She stares at my mouth, waiting for me to say the answer so she can repeat it, despite my encouragement to try to sound out the word from a flashcard. I always do a double take when I hear her speak (even in Japanese) because I hear her voice so infrequently.
Yu – “The boy” – (pronounced “you”) is the lone boy in the class. He is the youngest, the smallest, and a pretty cute kid. He is a man of few words. He often frowns very, very hard when he’s thinking, and when he gives me his answer, looks very hopeful. Upon confirmation that his answer is correct and he can take his turn at the game we’re playing, I often hear a firm “Yay.” He surprises me from time to time – he seems to be daydreaming for much of class. He stares out the window or zones out on a poster, but he comes up with correct answers with little assistance. The only time he speaks up is to attempt to be second in the lineup of game participants. Every time we play a game, I ask who is first. Every time, I hear Yu say: “Yu is #2!” He is deadly serious. I don’t know why.
This group is diverse, but it works well. They seem to actually learn something every single week (and remember it!), so the class is promising. I imagine in a few years most of them will have a great set of English skills. Class with them is a fun and dynamic experience. They are the only group that calls me by name – most of my other students don’t even know my name, though I’ve spent about 9 months teaching them.
Although I initially called this class “the mob” because they were an energetic group I had trouble controlling, I think of them much more affectionately now – they are, cheesily enough, a mob of fun.